Saturday, September 19, 2020

Playing political tricks will not deliver economic growth

A greater number of Batswana feel more economically vulnerable today than has ever been the case since 2008. This is of course notwithstanding the ever growing list of sponsored accolades that our country continues to attract from shady think-tanks and pollsters abroad. A few months ago for example, President Ian Khama was ranked the second best President in Africa after the President of Mali.

Inside the halls of Botswana Government, this has been an accolade from which our government is still to fully move beyond. Nothing happens without it mentioned in an official communiqu├®. While our government has been smooching itself about this “achievement” no effort has been made to do a due diligence on the think tank that came up with the rankings. No effort has been done either to ask ourselves just who could have commissioned the rankings.

More appallingly, no questions have been asked about who this Malian President is much less how it could have come about that Mali could by any stretch of imagination have been bandied together with Botswana. In the eyes of our Government those are side issues. Not only do they not matter, they also can wait. What matters is that we are up there ÔÇô together; of all the countries with Mali. Ours has become a government preoccupied and consumed by receiving international accolades rather than improving the lives of its own people. It is a government that values public relations rather than substance. We should not be surprised. The preoccupation with accolades that permeates our government is very much consistent with the attitude of the men that control this government. For them, these rankings have literally become a substitute for good performance. Our leaders will do everything to be told what they like to hear rather than be told the truth.

Instead of coming up with policies to grow the economy, all they can think of are short-term stop gaps that have the net effect of taking the money from the economy into non-productive adventures like Ipelegeng and Tirelo Sechaba. They are telling us to feel good about ourselves because the world says we are doing just fine. It is like somebody telling you that it is not possible for you to feel as hungry as the way you say you are. One point needs emphasis; Botswana government has long given up on coming up with measures to fight unemployment or kick start the economy.

They are just keeping track of it and hoping that somehow it will sort itself out. The Minister of Finance is nowhere to be seen. It is not clear if he has already retired or he is just on holiday. As for the President he is busy playing with his toys around the country visiting every exotic tourism area that there is in Botswana. Many industries in the apparel sector that were vibrant when Ian Khama arrived into the Presidency have long closed shop. Attempts to get them reopened have been at best hesitant and directionless and at worst just headless. In the meantime families are drowning at the highest levels of debt in our history. We clearly are sleeping walking into an economic disaster, yet Khama’s newfound cronies at the Bank of Botswana say there is no reason for alarm. This allows the ministry of finance the luxury to relax rather than coming up with enforceable legislative measures to regulate credit, especially household lending.

Bank of Botswana’s obsession with inflation variables at the expense of all other economic activity and in fact everything else has locked this country into inertia. For them it is a big achievement if they get inflation within their near doctrinal range. To them how that happens clearly does not matter, even if along the way it means having to sacrifice growth and undermine employment creation. As the saying goes, for them, the ends justify the means. The Minister of Finance should cease being an economic hostage of the Central Bank’s near religious obsessions with inflation. He must look at what fiscal instruments he has at his disposal to kick start the economy. He should consider lowering taxes and also releasing more public finances into public projects long held in abeyance.

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